BetterDoctor’s Ad-Free Physician Search Tool Goes Nationwide
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release a native app. “The team background is from mobile apps and games, so this will be the core focus going forward,” Tulla says.
BetterDoctor populates its backend database with data from insurance companies, consumer review sites, medical licensing boards, and the like. The company collects data from 40 to 50 sources altogether, Tulla says. But just as important, Tulla and Tolvanen have focused on building a simple, attractive, easy-to-use search interface that worked equally well on desktop and mobile platforms. “Some people say simple is boring, but I think simple is hard,” Tulla says. “We want to make sure you can find some value in two clicks—what kind of doctor, what insurance plans, and the quality metrics.”
Once a patient has found a doctor they might like on BetterDoctor, the next step is to contact their office and ask about available appointments. That’s the part BetterDoctor can’t really help with yet—right now the site merely shows a doctor’s office phone number.
“In the end our goal is to have the doctors define their availability on a practice level or even an individual level, but it’s a complex problem,” Tulla says. For one thing, there are hundreds of competing electronic booking and health record systems. Automating the connections—so that patients could book appointments directly through BetterDoctor’s site—would mean integrating with all of them.
Government incentives encouraging practices to adopt electronic systems will help with this, but standardization is still a long way off, Tulla says. “You don’t want to wait until the world is perfect. You want to build something that will work while the world is becoming perfect.” Meanwhile, a “fairly high number of people” already proceed all the way from doing a search to booking an appointment by phone, he says.
BetterDoctor has raised $650,000 in seed funding so far from individual investors, including a number of doctors. “Tens of thousands of active consumers” signed up for the Bay Area beta test, which listed 5,000 local doctors. And a handful of doctors are using what Tulla calls the “Doctor Dashboard,” where doctors or practices can add information directly to the company’s database. The company hopes to increase the number of doctors who are engaging directly with the database over time.
And it may eventually start charging practices for the new patients it sends their way. “We believe that the best model from the doctor and consumer perspective is to focus on lead generation,” Tulla says. The alternative—plastering the site with advertising—could decrease trust in the service, he says.
The day doesn’t seem very far away when the mobile and desktop Web will be the main place people turn to look for a doctor. “Twenty percent of couples met each other on the Web,” Tulla points out. “If that’s possible, then it should also be possible for you to meet a doctor.” The question is who the matchmakers will be—and while many other sites offer physician listings, Tulla hopes BetterDoctor’s will become the most detailed and trusted.